Can school councils represent everyone in a large school?

I am currently reading a paper that has been published by the Human Scales School Project, which is a partnership between Human Scale Education and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The idea behind Human Scale Education is to create small scale learning communities where children and young people are known and valued as individuals.

The report looked into how Stantonbury Campus, a school with 2,600 pupils, and how it manages to achieve human scale thinking in such a large school. Stantonbury Campus has divided their school into five ‘halls’ each containing around 500 pupils. The purpose of these halls is to act as mini-schools with their own individual head teacher and teaching staff.

The report is interesting in that one of the final recommendations for good practice is “Student voice involving students in the learning arrangements and organization of the school.” The way in which Stantonbury achieves this is for each hall to have their own elected school council who have control of a budget and are involved in all aspects of their hall.

We recognize that sometimes in a large school the school council does not represent all pupils, do you think by having separate school councils for different pupils will mean that the whole school is represented? Or do you think that this will mean the school will become segregated? Is there a better way of involving the whole school community in the decisions made by the school council?



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  1. SchoolCouncilsUK

    I think one of the biggest problems in any democratic system is size. The further people are removed from where decisions are taken, the more difficult it is for them to feel that the decisions are really being taken with them in mind.

    Large schools do struggle with this. I think the key is to ensure that decisions are made at all levels of the school council structure. Whenever possible individual class/year/house councils should be delegated responsibility for projects.

    So a class comes up with an idea; the school council agrees it's worthwhile addressing; and then passes it back to the class with a mandate to do something about it.

    To make sure this works well of course you need to have good strucutres for feeding back information that everyone can follow and contribute to.


  2. Mike Seaton

    The problem with the Stantonbury model is its potential to create 'schools within a school', which can be counterproductive to the idea of student voice having whole-school reach, impact and relevance.

    School Councils CAN be representative of large schools, as long as their make-up reflects the diversity of the school intake…e.g. with an even gender balance, range of abilities, etc.

    However, student voice needs to go further – e.g. through regular learning-centred questionnaires of wider numbers of students, appointing students as 'Learning Detectives' to observe the quality of teaching and learning, etc.

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